The location of the new Cascade Park is not new to Tallahassee. Although the area has been unused for many years, the site is rich in history, much of it unknown to many residents.
The park is listed as a Nationally Registered Historic Place because of importance in history and culture.
“I’ve seen and heard about the construction of the new park, but I was not aware of the historical relevance of the site,” said Tallahassee resident, Lacey Jernigan.
In 1823, two delegates, one from St. Augustine and one from Pensacola, set out to find a suitable midpoint to serve as the Florida capitol. When they saw a beautiful waterfall, in what is now Cascade Park, they chose a nearby hill as the location for the future city of Tallahassee. The waterfall, for which the park was named, is long since gone, but will be represented in the new park by a commemorative fountain.
The northern end of Cascade Park was also once the location of Smokey Hollow, an African-American community. The community began in the 1890’s and was home to many black families and businesses.
One of the community’s most notable members is Wally Amos, the founder and namesake of “Famous Amos” cookies, who was born in Smokey Hollow in 1936 and lived there until he was 12.
The community disbanded in the mid-1960’s due to urban renewal throughout the city and the construction of the state Department of Transportation building. A commemorative village is being built in the new Cascade Park to preserve the memory of Smokey Hollow and the families that lived there.
“This neighborhood (Smokey Hollow) was where Cascades Park was and it was wiped out in urban renewal,” Blueprint 2000 director, Wayne Tedder said. “It has a rich history and this is an opportunity to bring back the neighborhood in a different way and not forget what was there.”
The location was also home to Centennial Field. Built in 1924 for Tallahassee’s 100th Anniversary, Centennial Field was used for minor league baseball games, football games and high school graduation ceremonies for fifty years until it was demolished in 1974. The sports complex even hosted
Florida State University’s first three football seasons from 1947 to 1949. A section of the new Cascade Park is being built in the shape of a baseball diamond to commemorate the history of Centennial Field and will feature photos from the era.
“I remember going to Centennial Field for high-school football games in the early 70’s,” said Tallahassee resident Pamela Sherrod. “It was the biggest park in Tallahassee at that time and was used for many local events.”
In 1988, contamination was found in the area and consequently most of the park was closed off to public access. The contamination was caused by a city owned manufactured gas plant that operated in the park from 1895 to the late 1950’s.
In 2005, the city cleaned up the contaminated area of the park; 70,000 tons of soil were removed and transported to an EPA-approved landfill in Valdosta, Ga.
In 2009, after the site was deemed safe and contaminant free, work began turning the site into the new and improved Cascade Park. The park is expected to open in the spring of 2013.
“I’m excited to see the new park,” said Tallahassee resident Luke Whitmore. “I know some of the history about the area of the park, but it is going to be interesting to see the history of the location and the new park all come together as one new attraction.”